Howick Pond is a small, insular body of water, idyllic in aspect, sheltered and edged with reedmace and meadowsweet. Rafts of yellow water lillies grace the open water, a spot ideal for raising cygnets. The resident pair of Mute Swans, UNA (him) and FUZ (her) have raised many an ugly duckling here since they arrived in 2002. Things were going swimmingly with the birds, now getting on a bit, even surviving the hard freeze of January 2010 by cuddling up together to keep a hole in the pond ice free.
UNA is a Teesider, his formative years beginning at Peterlee on 10th August 1998 when he was one of a pair of cygnets ringed from a brood of four. FUZ is a Northumbrian, but is very similar to UNA. She was ringed at Ellington Pond on 8th August 1998, one of two cygnets from a family of five. The pair crossed paths on the river Tweed at Berwick in the summer of 2000, and as bright and breezy two year olds they had their minds set on starting a family of their own...
From the Tweed they flew south, moving in to Rock Pond in April 2001, a temporary measure until they found a place to bring up baby. Howick Pond fitted the bill nicely. A des res indeed.
The pair, often accompanied by four or five brown woolly cygnets were familiar faces on the pond until cracks began to show last November...
As the snow fell and the mercury dropped, UNA was found alone on the pond. A bedraggled figure, with a swollen and bloody neck, there was no sign of his beloved. Visitors assumed the worst. He had been the victim of an errant hound, and the carcass of FUZ probably lay hidden in the wood.
December arrived colder than the previous month and the wild things found life hard. UNA vanished and in his place were two new posuers, APN a young female and a strapping cob, 817. It looked like a new regime had arrived to replace the old timers. This was a sad day for the villagers of Howick, who had developed a bond with their old downy neighbours. However the new leading lights soon dimmed as UNA burst back on to the scene to regain his kingdom in the hope FUZ would return unharmed to resume domestic bliss.
This to-ing and fro-ing continued into the New Year with some days the old ruler in charge and on others it would be the young turks.
It is well known that in affairs of the heart, one day the truth will out, and last week this surely happened. UNA was found wandering the track to the pond, far from the water. He was looking weaker than ever. A local, out with his dog, managed to get him underarm, and carry him back to the water. Here they were met by a very agressive pair of Mutes who were both clearly up for a battle. UNA struggled free and ran back up the hill into the wood. There's no way this old timer whose strength had been sapped by heartache and a hard winter could survive up here, so after a few phone calls and emails he was rescued by Berwick Swan Rescue and taken up north for his own safety and recuperation...he will be released back onto the Tweed after a few days rest and relaxation.
Curious, the local man, decided to check out those young swans to see if the mild spring weather had brought such an violent response. There were two swans sure enough but not APN and 817...
The bloke stooped to read the ring on the close bird on the bank. F..U..Z!
It seems that the 'loving mate' of UNA had sloped off at the onset of winter, with her toy boy, after giving the old man a right bashing, only to return for a spring clean with chummy! So much for Mutes pairing for life....
|UNA during happier days...|
|FUZ and UNA. Two summers ago...|
I wonder how the new couple will get on in 2011? Will UNA return ...Mmmm.